WM. H. S. BURGWYN
Pass 50>Cs> i^
(!!a^^^ L^ c^y?-t^
(General ^att* ^. Ransom
T some future time in a more enduring form we
may hope that the services rendered his State and
the Nation by the late Hon. Matt. W. Ransom, as
a civilian, will be transmitted to posterity. To-
day, in this historic chamber with hallowed mem-
ories crowding upon me, I would carry you back
some forty years and more and speak of General
Ransom as a Confederate soldier in the army of
GENERAL RANSOM'S FIRST SERVICE TO THE SOUTHERN
came about in this wise. On January 28, 1861, the General As-
sembly of North Carolina, of which body Mr. Ransom was a
representative in the House of Commons, from the County of
Northampton, passed the following joint resolution:
"That for the purpose of eflfecting an honorable and amicable adjust-
ment of all difficulties that distract the country .... and for the pur-
pose of consulting for our common peace, honor and safety, the Hon.
David L. Swain, M. W. Ransom and John L. Bridgers are appointed
commissioners to visit Montgomery, Alabama, for the purposes above
Governor Swain was a pronounced " Union man, " as was his
colleague and former pupil, Mr. Ransom. Mr. Bridgers was classed
among the "Secessionists." At this time, the States of South
Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana,
(Beiteral ^att ^. Ransom
and Texas had seceded from the Union and delegates from said
States had met in convention at Montgomery, Alabama, a pro-
visional constitution for the Confederate States of America had
been adopted and Jefiferson Davis, of Mississippi, elected President
and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President. Gover-
nor Swain, clarum et venerabile nometi, was President of the
State University, was President when his associate, Mr. Ran-
som, graduated in June, 1847.
Mr. Bridgers was a member of the Legislature from the
County of Edgecombe, soon to distinguish himself as Captain in
the famous Bethel Regiment at the first battle and first victory
for the Confederacy in the war between the States.
On February 11, 1861, this Commission wrote to Governor
ElHs from Montgomery, Alabama, the practical failure of their
mission in these words :
"We regret to be constrained to state as the result of our inquiries
.... that only a very decided minority of the communities of these
States (those which had seceded) are disposed at present to entertain
favorably any proposition of adjustment which looks towards a recon-
cilement of our National Union."
Event followed event now in rapid succession. Mr. Lincoln
took his seat as President, on March 4, 1861. He did not
receive an electoral vote in any Southern State, and out of a
popular vote of 2,804,560 only 1,857,610 were cast for those
electors favorable to him. He carried but 16 of the 33 States
then in the Union. He was inaugurated as President, without
having received a majority of the popular vote either of the
States or the people.
An attempt by President Lincoln to reinforce the U. S. Garrison
at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina,
was resisted by the Confederate forces under General Beaure-
gard, and on April 14, 1861, after a bombardment lasting thirty-
six hours, the fort surrendered.
On the next day, April 15, President Lincoln issued his procla-
mation calling upon the several States to furnish their quota of
75,000 troops "to suppress combinations in the seceded States
too powerful for the law to contend with," and the same day
(BcReral Mtatt. >J^. tJlansom
Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, telegraphed
Governor EUis, "Call made on you by tonight's mail for two
regiments of militia for immediate service."
Reclining on his couch in the executive office, a mortal disease
robbing his life's blood. Governor ElUs received the dispatch and
at once replied : "Sir: I regard the levy of troops made by the Ad-
ministration for the purpose of subjecting the States of the
South, as in violation of the Constitution and as a gross usurpa-
tion of power. I can be no party to this wicked war upon the
liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North
Governor Ellis at once issued his proclamation calHng the
Legislature to meet in special session. On its assembling, the
Legislature issues a call for a convention of the people and author-
izes the enrollment of 20,000 volunteers. The Honorable Matt.
W. Ransom is among the first to respond and is commissioned
Lieutenant-Colonel of the First Regiment of Infantry; this com-
mission dates May 8, 1861. What about this yoimg civilian ap-
pointed to so high a rank in an army and without previous miU-
tary training ?
HIS BIRTH AND YOUNG MANHOOD.
Matt. Whitaker Ransom was born on his father's plantation,
near Warrenton, North Carolina, October 8, 1826. He was the
oldest son of six children, two boys and four girls. His father,
Robert Ransom, was a man of superior intelligence, the son of
Seymour Ransom, who was ahalf brother of Nathaniel Macon.
His mother was Priscilla Whitaker, of the well known Whita-
ker family, of Halifax County. General Ransom never tired of
speaking in the most reverential and affectionate manner of his
parents'' and attributed much of his success to their teachings
and examples. After making two visits south to Tuscombia,
Alabama, and Columbia, Tennessee, with his family, Mr. Robert
Ransom returned to Warren County about 1838, and lived with
his mother, who was Birchett Greene, daughter of Wm. Greene, a
wealthy planter of Warren County, who resided at her ancestral
home. Bridal Creek, near Warrenton.
Young Ransom was prepared for Chapel Hill by Mr. Robert
( 5 )
iBeneral Mtalt W, !J\ansom
A. Ezell, a native of Virginia, who had a famous Academy at
Warrenton. He matriculated at the University January, 1844,
as a freshman half advanced and graduated in June, 1847. He
was conspicuous during his university career not only for his
studiousness, cleverness, courteous bearing, superiority in his
studies and eloquence in debate in the Philanthropic Society of
which he was a beneficiary, but he was exceptionally regular in
attendance upon his classes and at prayers. He did not miss a
recitation or fail to be present at prayers during his college
career. In those days morning prayers were held at sunrise in
summer, and in the winter at daybreak, the chapel was not
heated, and in winter time the hearers sat in the cold.
When Henry Clay visited Raleigh in 1844 the student body
from the State University, almost without exception, went to
hear him. Young Ransom remained at the Hill so as not to miss
any duty. The year he graduated, 1847, was the year President
Polk visited Chapel Hill. To James Johnston Pettigrew, brilhant,
versatile, a mathematical genius, afterward the brave and ac-
comphshed Confederate soldier, commanding a brigade in the
army of Northern Virginia, mortally wounded at Falling Waters,
Virginia, was given the valedictory. In honor of the President's
visit it was decided a salutatory address in English should be
delivered, and to young Ransom was given the distinction of
making it, the first and only time in the history of the University
tinder the old regime that a salutatory address in English was
allowed. The New York Herald had a special correspondent to
accompany the Presidential party and he thus writes of Mr. Ran-
"Of the composition by the young disciples of Cicero, the salutatory
by Mr. Ransom was unquestionably the best. His welcome to the Presi-
dent of the United States was superior to anything of the kind through-
out the whole expedition. His welcome to the people at large was also
in fine taste, while the beauty and finished elegance of the welcome to
the ladies drew down upon his devoted head repeated rounds of
After graduation Mr. Ransom located at Warrenton, and hav-
ing studied law in his senior j-ear under the late Judge Wm. H.
(Bdueral !Jttatt >iO, transom
Battle, as pure and upright a judge as ever adorned the Supreme
Bench of a State -he was prepared to take his place at the Bar
upon leaving the University.
His father was an earnest Whig and young Ransom was thus
a Whig bv inheritance. Warren County was overwhelmingly
Democratic, but with superior talents and attainments far be-
yond his vears, with the aid of a fine person, captivating manners
'and an eloquent tongue, he at once took high rank at the Bar.
In 1852 he was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket. At a
great meeting in Halifax County during the campaign, he had
arranged with a friend to fill a log with gunpowder, which, at a
given signal, was to be set ofi^and thus excite the enthusiasm of
his hearers, as he discanted on the praises of General Scott, the
presidential nominee of his party. Mr. Ransom appeared on the
platform dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, buff vest and
straw colored pants, a splendid attire faultlessly made.
Everv'thing at first went as cottld be wished. General Scott
was the miHtary hero of the day. His brilHant successes in the
War of 1812; his invaluable services in peace afterwards; his
matchless victories in the war with Mexico then lately ended,
furnished the theme. As the speaker warmed to his subject and
began to recount the various successes of the American army
under Scott, the surrender of Vera Cruz, the battle of Cerro Gor-
do, the capture of Contrera and Cherubusco, and was leading up
to the climax in his flight of oratory, the storming of Chapultepec,
which was the agreed signal for the explosion, his friend ap-
peared on the edge of the crowd wildly gesticulating, and in
an impassioned tone heard above the voice of the speaker, cried
out, "Matt. ! Matt. !! hold on! the damned old log won't go off."
Forty-four years after this the young orator was to visit the
scenes he so eloquently described, the representative of his
Country as its Minister Plenipotentiary.
In December, 1852, following this brilHant campaign as a
Whig elector, Mr. Ransom was chosen by a Democratic Legisla-
ture, Attorney-General of the State in competition with Honor-
able WilHam Eaton, a Democrat and a lawyer of the highest
standing and character.
(Beneral ^att. >it?, Maitsom
On January 19, 1853, Mr. Ransom was married to Miss Martha
Anne (Pattie) Exum, one of the two daughters of Joseph Exum,
Esquire, of Northampton County, a lady of rare excellence and
many accomplishments, who has blessed and adorned her hus-
band's household and been his inspiration through life. Six
boys and two girls blessed this union, all of whom with their
mother survive except the oldest girl (Pattie), who died when a
child, and Thomas, a brilliant young man, whose untimely death
in 1896, just as he was entering upon the practice of law with
every prospect of success, saddened his father's life to the end.
In 1856 Mr. Ransom, having resigned his position as Attorney-
General, moved from Warrenton to his wife's ancestral home at
Verona in Northampton County, and there he died. At his home in
Northampton County, Mr. Ransom devoted himself chiefly to
looking after his landed estates, not taking an active part in the
practice of his profession, but was elected to represent his county
as a member of the House of Commons in 1858 and again in 1860.
RANSOM AS A SOLDIER.
North Carolina's military record is altogether honorable. As
early as 1711, with the aid of troops from South Carolina, she
destroyed the power of the fierce Tuscaroras. Two ^'ears later
she sent an expedition under Colonel Maurice Moore to aid South
Carolina against the Yemasee Indians. In 1740 she sent 400
men on Admiral Vernon's ill-fated expedition to Cartagena,
South America, the same year she sent troops to aid Governor
Oglethorpe against the Spaniards in Florida. In 1754 she sent
a regiment under Colonel James Innes to Winchester, Virginia,
who took command of the expedition, outranking Colonel George
Washington, who then commanded the Virginia forces. The
next year she sent 100 men in the disastrous Braddock expedi-
tion to capture Fort DuOuesne, now Pittsburg, Pennsylvania,
and three years later(1758) she had three companies under Major
Hugh Waddell in General Forbes' expedition which captured the
fort, the North Carolinians being the first to enter the fortress.
In 1756 she had four companies in the French War, and in 1759
and 1761 she sent a large force under Colonel Hugh Waddell
against the Cherokees.
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(Bciteral ^att. W. transom
Coming down to Revolutionary times we find women not less
patriotic and daring than the men ; and as eariy as October 25,
1774, fifty-one patriotic women met at the residence of Mrs.
Elizabeth King in Edenton, and had such a "Tea Party" in-
deed as will be ever memorable in the nation's history; and when
the city of Boston was under embargo for destroying the tea in
that harbor and her citizens were in distress for want of food,
the people of North Carolina declared "the cause of Boston is
the cause of all," and, from Wilmington and New Bern, ships
laden with supplies were sent as a contribution to their brothers
in want in Boston.
At Alamance, May 16, 1771, was spilt the first blood in re-
sistance to exactions of English rulers and oppressions by the
Home Government; and from Moore's Creek (February 22,
1776), where was had the first armed conflict between the Colo-
nists and the troops of the Mother Country in North Carolina,
until the battle of Guilford Court House (March 15, 1781), the
last battle in this State between the two, we have a long list of
brilliant and daring conflicts. North Carolina troops won the
brilliant victories at Ramsour's Mill, King's Mountain, Elizabeth-
ton, and participated in the battle of Camden Court House. Un-
der Rutherford's leadership, early in 1776, they crashed the Tories
in South Carolina, and later in the 3'ear the Indians in Tennessee.
North Carolina troops shared in the battles of Stono, Briar
Creek, the Cow Pens and in the defense of Charleston, and
under Davidson and Graham gallantly' resisted the passage of
the Catawba by the British under Tarleton and Cornwallis. In
the War of 1812 General Joseph Graham, a hero of the Revolu-
tionary War, commanded a brigade of North and South Caro-
lina troops that were sent to aid General Andrew Jackson in the
Creek War, and in the Mexican War (1846-47) there were two
regiments from North Carolina under Colonels Robert Treat
Paine and Louis D. Wilson, after whom Wilson County is named.
Her people were schooled in war from the beginning of the 18th
to the middle of the 19th century, and we are now to consider the
part her soldiers played in that most gigantic war of modern
(BcncraX Mtalt >iP. yiansom
times, the din of whose conflict was heard all over the world,
and the people of all nations were spectators of the scene.
The General Assembly that met on May 1, 1861, in obedience
to Governor Ellis' proclamation, authorized the Governor to
raise ten regiments of State troops to serve during the war.
Mr. Ransom at once offered his services and was appointed
Lieutenant-Colonel of the First Regiment, and left his seat in the
Legislature to assume the uniform of a soldier in the Confederate
Army. The regiment was organized at the race track near
Warrenton and Mumford S. Stokes, a veteran of the Mexican
War, was appointed Colonel. In July (1861) its organization
perfected, the regiment was ordered to Richmond and assigned to
General Holmes' brigade, then in camp at Brooks Station near
the mouth of Acquia Creek, Virginia.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom was no Martinet, but he believed
in discipline, and when in command required strict observance of
the army regulations. This at one time rendered him unpopular.
He was resolute not to give leaves of absence and while Colonel
Stokes was in Fredericksburg in attendance on a court martial,
Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom refused all applications for furloughs.
When his Colonel returned to camp he relaxed the stringent
orders of his subordinate, and this made the unpopularity of
Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom all the greater by contrast. Colonel
Ransom protested, but in vain. When Colonel Stokes resumed his
duties on the court martial and Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom was
again in command, he let it be known that his views had changed,
and in a brief space of time he had furloughed the larger part of
the regiment, and Colonel Stokes on his return to duty, found to
his dismay but a skeleton of the command in camp.
In a letter dated Acquia Creek, August 27, 1861, to his wife,
Colonel Ransom writes :
"It is very late at night. I just heard the lonesome sentinel cry out,
'It is twelve o'clock and all is well.' The camp is very silent, scarcely' a
sound breaks the solemn stillness. All here is peace, and yet each minute
may open on our ears the signal guns of death. There ! went a musket,
even while I wrote the last word. Doubtless some false alarm. Ah !
there's another! I have waited five minutes and all is still again. Some
nervous sentinel shot a phantom and that's all. It is so strange how I
(General Mtatt. W, Ransom
burn for the eager fray, I can hardly realize it. Tell dear Matt, that he
need not fear that his father will run. Bless his soul. War is very sav-
age. It soon fires the heart to daring and wescarcely think of the danger.
Heaven return us all to peace and virtue. How I do desire it when the
excitement is down. I am glad that you cannot see me in camp. There
are no charms around me. A large tent, almost furnitureless; a few
books, trunks and writing material, a pair of pistols, a sword, some
scattered clothing make up the scene. Of course I am right particular in
my dress and find tolerably good washing. The dull routine of camp
duty, and the stupid drill are very irksome. They engage small minds
very anxiously. I did not take the field for these. I hope that amid the
storm and strife of making armies, when men are needed, it may be
given me to be with a mind and soul equal to all the fortunes of the hour.
Then I think what genius I have would appear, then what spirit I have
shall be seen. But under all circumstances and amid every vicissitude
of triumph or defeat, nothing shall ever make me forget the holy duties
of humanity. The glory of victory is great, but how much greater is
the virtue of charity in the hour of victory. No ! I will give my life to
my countr}', but I will leave to my wife and children the memory of a
name unstained with the slightest speck of cruelty or revenge. Such are
my feelings and such shall be my action. I shall be equal to all the
reverses of the war and I will be superior to all of its successes if I share
in them. But enough of these things."
Nothing occurred of moment during this service on the Po-
tomac, and in the spring (1862) Colonel Ransom's regiment
was ordered to North Carolina, and stationed near Kinston, re-
inforcing the troops collected at that point after the battle of
New Bern (March, 1862).
Among the regiments engaged in the battle of New Bern, was
the Thirty-fifth North Carolina, then commanded by James Sin-
clair. Colonel Sinclair had been chaplain of the Fifth North Caro-
lina regiment, was elected Colonel of the Thirty-fifth regiment
at its organization at Camp Mangum, near Raleigh (Novem-
ber, 1861). The conduct of this regiment in the battle of New
Bern was, to say the least, disappointing to its friends. At
a critical time in the battle and while occupying what was
strategetically an important part of the line of defense, "it
quickly followed the example of the militia, retreating in the
utmost disorder." The regiment keenly felt its disgrace and
when the time of its reorganization for the war came around in
April, 1862, the officers elected Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom as
( 11 )
(Beiteral ^alt 'W, Ransom
their commander. Colonel Ransom was doubtful as to his duty
in the premises. His own regiment was loath to part with him.
He consulted his personal friend and military superior, Major-
General Holmes, the Department Commander. General Holmes
advised Colonel Ransom not to accept, giving among other rea-
sons the prediction that the regiment would feel the demoraliza-
tion of its conduct at New Bern, and require its commander to
greatly expose himself in any subsequent battle with almost the
certainty of losing his life. To Colonel Ransom his duty now
seemed plain, and disregarding his commander's advice and that
of other friends, he notified the committee of his acceptance.
When it became known that Colonel Ransom was to leave
them, the officers of his old regiment presented him with a hand-
some sword. In his letter of acceptance, dated May 11, 1862,
Colonel Ransom says :
"I accept with emotions of pleasure and gratitude which I cannot ex-
press, the beautiful sword which the officers of the First North Carolina
regiment have been pleased, through you, to present to me.
"Certainly the bestowal of no honor could have brought with it more
gratification. The esteem of the chivalrous gentlemen with whom it
has been my happiness to have been so long associated in the service of
our country, so generously evinced, is a priceless attainment, and it will be
my sacred duty through life to preserve untarnished this bright token
of their confidence, and to transmit it as a sacred jewel to my sons.
Around it will ever cluster pleasant memories of the cherished friends,
the brave hearts, the patriotic spirits of that noble regiment, the gallant
First. Cherishing in common with 3'ourselves a holy purpose to assist
in maintaining at all hazard the independence of our Country and the
honor of our State, I remain, gentlemen, most sincerely yours."
RANSOM AS COLONEL.
The Thirty-fifth regiment, under its new commander, is now
brigaded with the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth
and Forty-ninth North Carolina regiments and is placed under the
command of his brother, Brigadier-General Robert Ransom.
From now on until he gave his parade at Appomattox, three
years thereafter. Colonel and subsequently as its brigade com-
mander. General Matt. W. Ransom is ever associated with this
famous brigade, sharing its toils on march and in bivouac, lead-
( 12 )
(Beneral Mtalt. W* Ransom
ing it in battle, rejoicing with it in victory, sympathizing with it
in defeat and yielding up his sword only when his noble men had
grounded their arms in surrender.
What a record in war and in peace had this brigade. One of
its Colonels, three times Governor of his State, dies in the ser-
vice of his country as United States Senator after three successive
elections. Another Colonel, for twenty-three years United States
Senator, then United States Minister Plenipotentiary at the sis-
ter Republic of Mexico.
The Adjutant of one of the regiments, then a boy under seven-
teen years of age, afterwards a Judge of the Superior and
Supreme Courts of the State for twenty-two years, and now its
One of its regiments, though not at the time attached to the
brigade, made an unequalled record for the most heroic fighting
in open battle of all the commands in either array in the war, and
the brigade's last stand at Five Forks, April 1, 1865, was the
forlorn hope of the once proud and victorious army of Northern
The rigid discipline, instituted by its first commander, rapidly
welded the brigade into a well drilled and disciplined command,
ready and eager to see more active service at the great theater
of war then raging around the Capital of the Confederacy. Or-
dered to Virginia in June, 1862, the brigade was assigned to
Huger's division. From June 25 to 28 it was involved in some
sharp minor engagements with General Philip Kearney's division
on the Williamsburg road, the scene of the battle of Seven Pines,
and was part of Magruder's command, which assaulted Malvern
Hill at the close of the day, Jitly 1, 1862.
In this charge the Thirty-fifth regiment lost both its command-
ers. Colonel Ransom was twice wounded; first through the right
arm, rendering it powerless, and then in his right side by a piece
of shell. While he lay upon the field, Colonel Ransom hears
in a few minutes that his gallant young Lieutenant-Colonel is
(Benatttl yCiatt >S0^ yiatisorti
killed; but the noble men of the regiment hold their ground till
night'settles down and shuts out from view the gory scene and
the combat ceases. Probably no regiment of Magruder's com-
mand suffered more in killed and wounded on this ever memorable
assault than the Thirty-fifth regiment; and in this its first bat-
tle since New Bern, the regiment then and there established its
reputation for unsurpassed fortitude and intrepidity in battle,
a reputation maintained from Malvern Hill to Appomattox.
When Lee's army left Richmond to meet the Federal General,
Pope, at the Second Manassas, Ransom's brigade remained with
the troops left behind to defend Richmond, but on August 27,
1862, we left en route to join the army of Northern Virginia, then
invading Maryland, and with the Twenty-seventh, Forty-sixth
and Forty-eighth North CaroHna regiments; Third Arkansas and
Thirtieth Virginia regiments, under command of Brigadier-Gen-
eral J. G. Walker, formed "Walker's Division" during this cam-
We reached the Potomac River September 7, 1862, and waded
through at Cheek's Ford, about a quarter of a mile wide and
waist deep. There was great enthusiasm. As the men would
step on the Maryland side of the river they gave the rebel yell-
marched to the Monocacy River, were ordered back to blow up
the aqueduct over the canal. On September 11, recrossed the
Potomac at Point of Rocks, occupying Loudon Heights on Sep-
tember 14, from which point our batteries shelled the enemy at
Harper's Ferry until their surrender on the 15th. Same day
marched twelve miles towards the Shenandoah and at one a. m.
on the 16th crossed into Maryland, wading the Potomac for the
third time within nine days. At three a. m., September 17, 1862,
we were aroused from our bivouac, and marched to take our posi-
tion in line for what was to be one of the great battles of the
Ransom's brigade was firstmoved to the extreme right of Lee's
army, but about nine a. m., was ordered to the left to support
Jackson. We moved rapidly along the rear of our entire line of
battle, passing over the dead and meeting the wounded being car-
AG E 26
<^etteral Mtatt. ^. Ransom
ried to the rear, while the steady booming of cannon, whistling of
shells, pattering of the small arms and the hoarse yell of cheer
rising above the roar of battle, as some advantage was gained by
either side, filled our ears.
Marching by the right flank, as w^e neared our point of attack
the brigade was deployed into column of regiments, and as each
regiment uncovered the one preceding it, was wheeled to the
right and given the order to charge. "The crisis in the battle was
at hand," says a writer. "The second stage of the battle was
now reached. Hooker has retired. Mansfield has been brought
to a stand. Jackson, worn and exhausted, has rested. Hood's
brigade has been so cut to pieces, that when its dauntless com-
mander was asked, Where is your brigade? he answers, 'Dead
on the field.' D. H. Hill's three brigades have been drawn in
and only a small force guards the Confederate left, not enough
to stop a brigade, when Sedgwick, and Sumner in the lead with
his three brigades moved towards the Dunkard church."
"Ten minutes, five minutes," says Judge Walter Clark, "the
gallant boy Adjutant of the Thirty -fifth regiment, and our
army would have ceased to exist." Just then Walker, at the
head of his six North Carolina, one Arkansas and one Virginia
regiments charged headlong upon the left flank of Sedgwick's
lines. Taken at such disadvantage, and in spite of the heroic
bravery of Sumner and Sedgwick, the division was driven off to
the North with terrible loss.
In his official report General Walker says: "Ransom's brigade
having driven the enemy through and from the woods( west) with
heavy loss, continued, with his own brigade and Colonel Hall's
Forty-sixth North Carolina, to hold it for the greater portion
of the day. Notwithstanding three determined infantry attacks,
which each time were repulsed with great loss to the enemy, and
against a most persistent and terrific artillery fire, by which the
enemy hoped doubtless to drive us from our strong position, the
very key to the battle field, his hopes were not realized. True
to their duty for eight hours our brave men lay upon the ground
taking advantage of such undulations and hollow ravines as gave
promise of partial shelter while this fearful storm raged a few
( 15 )
(General ^Jtlalt W, transom
feet above their heads, tearing the trees asunder, tossing off hugh
branches and fiUing the air with shells and explosives, realizing to
the fullest the fearful sublimity of battle.
"During this time, in the temporary absence of General Robert
Ransom to post the Twenty-fourth regiment, the enemy made a
furious attack with heavy masses of infantry upon that portion
of the line occupied by General Ransom, Colonel Ransom, of the
Thirty-fifth North Carolina, in temporary command of the brigade,
not only repulsed the enemy, but pursued him across the field as
far as the post and rail fences, inflicting upon him so severe a
punishment that no other attempt with infantry was made on
that position during the day."
The Thirty-fifth regiment nobly bore its part in this trying
ordeal. Early in the action, while advancing on the enemy, the
regiment had to surmount a strong post and rail fence, sub-
jected to a heavy fire of artillery and small arms, the regiment
was in confusion. Fearing his men were wavering, Colonel Ran-
som, who with his Adjutant were on horseback, spurred his
horse to the color bearer and called for the flag. Doubtless Gen-
eral Holmes' warning word came up to his mind, for when he
grasped the flag handed him by a young officer of the regiment
he calls out, "If I am killed, tell Mrs. Ransom I died leading ray
men, colors in hand."
In a letter to Mrs. Ransom, dated Camp near Winchester, Vir-
ginia, October 5, 1862 (18 days after the battle), he writes :
"This day makes me feel unutteraljly sad. All day I have been sighing
over our own jjrecious little angel (his only daughter recently dead) and
feel just as bad about the loss of our darling jewel as if it was only
yesterday. All during the terrible battle, her little soul seemed to be
with me, saving me. Let us trust it all to God. He knows and does
what is best. As soon as I join you again, I will with you publicly em-
brace His holy religion, and try with all my heart to live by His law.
"His great mercy tome in battle has conquered all the obstinacy I ever
had, and I feel from the bottom of my heart, that I ought to, and do
love God and our Merciful Saviour.
"If you could only have seen the dangers I passed that day. From
early dawn till nine at night, of all the men I saw on the field I was the
only one who did not at some time during the day go under cover.
But I am so proud, that not for one second during the fourteen hours of
( 16 )
(General ^att. ^. Ransom
carnage diJ I seek the slightest shelter. My horse was shot under me,
but she is recovering. Several times I was hid from my men in the
smoke of the bursting shells, and over and over again the ploughing
shot covered me all over with dust, and at all times I was far in the lead;
far ahead, and yet I was not even scratched; not a thread of my cloth-
ing touched, and I felt all day that I would not be hurt.
"I proved myself a real soldier on that field. All the field officers of our
brigade the day after the battle waited on General Walker, who com-
mands this division, and represented my conduct to him and claimed
that he should do me justice in his report. He promised to do so. If he
does it is all ri^ht; if not, the praise awarded me by all the field officers
is compliment enough; certainly nothing like it has happened during the
war. It is a rare thing for all your brother officers to join in praising
and demanding promotion for one of themselves, but they did this for
me and I did not know many of them.
"I only wish to be done justice to, that our dear son may have
something to be proud of I hope, for myself, I care nothing for such
things. Rom's (his brother General Ransom) report of the battle did
not quite ignore me. I suppose, as he said, it would not seem right for
him to praise his brother. He no doubt means right, but if our cases
had been reversed, I would have put him in the stars. I know he means
right and have nothing to say. I know I am bound, if I am not killed,
to be distinguished in the army. But do forgive me for all this non-
It was not until June, 1863, General Robert Ransom having been
made Major-General, that Colonel Ransom received his merited
promotion. He was unanimously recommended to succeed his
brother in command of the brigade by the officers of the Twenty-
fifth, Thirty-fiftli, Forty-ninth and Fift3--sixth regiments over the
three senior Colonels.
GENERAL RANSOM'S FIRST INDEPENDENT COMMAND. ENGAGEMENT
AT BOONE'S MILL, JULY 28, 1863.
Twice in his military career, it was General Ransom's good
fortune to be able
"To strike for his altars and his fires,
To strike for the green graves of his sires
God ! And his native land."
One of these occasions was his defeat of the enemy at Boon's
Mill, in Northampton County, in their attempt to burn the
railroad bridge over the Roanoke River at Weldon. To destroy
( 17 )
(Beneral Mtatt. "^. transom
this bridge would sever the chief means of provisioning Lee's
army and the troops around Petersburg and Richmond with
supplies from the South. The enemy made several attempts to
do this. The first was by way up the river from Plymouth, July,
1861, by a fleet of gunboats under the gallant and accomplished
Lieutenant-Commander Flusser, of the Union navy. This at-
tempt was defeated by Lieutenant A. B. Andrews, of the First
Cavalry, with forty-three of his company, who attacked the
gunboats with his men dismounted, and using their pistols at
close range inflicted such slaughter among the marines and
troops on board as caused the abandonment of the expedi-
tion. So far as I am advised this was the first and most sue-
cessful attack on gunboats by cavalry, unsupported by infantry
or artillery, recorded in the war. A second attempt to burn the
Weldon bridge, was in December, 1862, when General Foster, with
a large force of all arms of the service,' advanced from New Bern
upon Goldsboro, but was driven back by Clingman's, Pettigrew's
and other troops under General G. W. Smith. The third and
most unexpected attempt was defeated by General Ransom as
Injtxly, 1863, Ransom's brigade was stationed near Petersburg,
Virginia. On the evening of July 27, 1863, General Ransom
received a telegram from his friend and neighbor, Mr. John Long,
who Hved near Garysburg, that Colonel S. P. Spear, with a large
force of cavalry and artillery, was advancing from Winton (in
Bertie County) on Weldon.
Ordering the Thirty-fifth regiment to Garj-sburg on first train,
the General with his staff" preceded his troops on a locomotive,
pressed into service for the occasion, reaching Garysburg at day-
break on the 28th. Four companies of the Twenty-fourth North
Carolina regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Harris of the regi-
ment, and a section of two guns of the Macon light artillery, un-
der command of Lieutenant Vassar, were encamped near that
place and were ordered to march to Boon's Mill, distant seven
miles on the county road from Garysburg to Jackson, the county
seat. Leaving orders that all troops arriving at Garysburg
should follow him, early on the morning of July 28, General
( 18 )
(Beneral yttalt ^. Ransom
Ransom \Yitli his staff proceeded to Jackson, ten miles, to obtain
information of the enemy's movements. Having no cavalry,
except such as he could improvise for the occasion, the General
had to do his own scouting.
Boon's Mill was a place of some strategic importance. It had
been partly fortified by the throwing up of some rifle pits com-
manding the bridge over the water way leading from the mill
pond to the grist mill. The county road led over this bridge,
which was about thirty feet wide.
Without stopping at his home, which was in plain view of the
road, as he hastened on to the mill about two miles distant, the
General reached Jackson to learn that the enemy were rapidly
approaching the town. Getting such information as he could,
about noon General Ransom left the town on his return to Boon's
Mill, where he intended to make the fight and had proceeded
about half a mile, when a great shout was heard from the di-
rection behind him, and stopping to ascertain the cause, the
enemy's cavalry were seen in pursuit, charging over the hill about
two hundred and fifty yards off.
It was now a question as to whose horses were the faster, as
two miles lay between the Confederate commander and his
forces, taking their enjoyment in the mill pond, ignorant of the
perilous situation of their General.
John Gilpin, of famous London town, would have been dis-
tanced in this race. The horses of the General and his staff were
rested; the thoroughbreds proved eqvial to the demands on them,
and General Ransom reaches the mill in advance of his pursuers,
unhurt, though subject to the enemy's fire during the race.
Dashing across the bridge he calls out to have the planks taken
up, the men to fall in ranks and gives orders in stentorian tones
easily heard by the enemy, that certain well known commands in
the army under Lee should take such and such positions in line
of battle. The pursuers halted to reform their command more or
less disorganized from the pursuit ; this gave the Confederates,
most of whom were bathing in the mill pond, time to get their
Colonel Spear now brought up his artillery, and for an hour or
( 19 )
(General yttalt >^. !^aitsom
more shelled the Confederate position. Dismounting his cavalry
Colonel Spear attempted an advance down the road to the mill,
he was met by a quick fire and driven back. About this time
the two guns of the Macon light artillery arrived and opened
fire. The enemy now^ attempted to carry our position by a
simultaneous attack on both the flanks, and succeeded under
cover of the thick swamp undergrowth in getting their men
directly in our rear across the mill pond, which curves here
nearly at right angles. This movement was promptly met by
advancing the artillery to the front and shelling the woods wath
grape and canister, and by a brave fire of the infantry. The fight
had now lasted some five hours. Foiled in his expectation to
surprise the Confederates and reach Weldon bridge without
serious opposition, Colonel Spear late in the afternoon with-
drew, and during the night retreated through Jackson.
This repulse of Colonel Spear, whose force consisted of a bri-
gade of cavalry and nine pieces of artillery, with a supporting
force under General Foster at Winton, North Carolina, by not
more than two hundred infantry and two pieces of artillery, was
a briUiant achievement of the greatest moment. It saved the
railroad bridge at Weldon, prevented the occupation by the
enemy of a large section of the richest portion of the State, from
which the Confederate government largely drew its supplies,
when at times there were not ten days' rations in Richmond for
The crops of 18G3 and 1864 were saved to the people in that
section of Eastern North Carohna as if war was not raging; and
the slave population remained quietly at work on the planta-
tions during the balance of the war.
The enemy never made another attempt on the Weldon bridge.
Ordering a pursuit. General Ransom now seeks his home to assure
his anxious wife and trembling little ones that they are safe.
This victory coming so soon after his promotion, was doubh'
gratifying to his friends and justified the high opinion formed of
his capacity for independent command.
In the winter of 1863-1864 Ransom's brigade was assigned to
the Department of North Carolina under General George Pickett,
( 20 )
<Beneral ^att W, tJtansom
of Gettysburg fame. In January, 1864, the brigade was a part of
General Pickett's command in the unsuccessful attempt to capture
New Bern. On March 19, 1864, General Ransom, with his
brigade and a cavalry force, drove the Federals from Suffolk,
Virginia, capturing a piece of artillery and Quartermaster stores
of much value.
THE CAPTURE OF PLYMOUTH, APRIL 20, J 864.
Of all his military services, General Ransom was best pleased
with his own conduct and the gallantry of his soldiers at the
capture of Plymouth. With rare magnanimity. General Hoke, in
command of the expedition, assigned to his second in command
the chief honor, and most difficult task, that of assaidting the
defenses on the eastern side of the town, and the result fully
vindicated his confidence in General Ransom and his brigade. To
appreciate fully the important bearing upon the future opera-
tions of the war of this capture of Plymouth, a brief reference
to General Grant's strategy in the campaign of 1864 is neces-
When President Davis first met General Hoke on his return
from Plymouth, on the day of the battle of Drewry Bluff, May
16, 1904, after congratulating Hoke on his victory. President
Davis remarked that he had seen in the Northern papers that the
Washington authorities had given him (President Davis) credit
for having discovered and thwarted General Grant's plans for
the campaign by the taking of Plymouth. It now appears that
General Grant designed that the Confederates should be attacked
simultaneously at three points, when the campaign should
open. Grant was to attack Lee in the wilderness so soon in the
spring as the roads were passable. General Butler was to ad-
vance on Petersburg with an army collected at Fortress Monroe,
and disembark at City Point on the James River, and Burn-
side, who had been so successful in North Carolina in the first
part of the war, was to collect a third army at Plymouth, and
with the assistance of gunboats on the Roanoke River, was to
capture Weldon and thus cut off all reinforcements and supplies
for the Confederacy from the South.
(b^ncral yUalt W. transom
Entirely ignorant of the enemy's plans, the Confederate author-
ities had decided that an attempt should be made to capture
some important place in Eastern North Carolina in possession of
the enemy. Plymouth, North Carolina, was the place selected,
and an Iron Clad (the Albemarle) built in a cornfield near Hahfax
and launched, when a freshet in the river made it possible, was
to be used with the land forces. Hoke and Ransom, both Briga-
dier-Generals from North Carolina, with their respective
brigades, Kemper's Virginia brigade, the Eighth North Carolina
regiment of Chngman's brigade, part of a cavalry force under
Colonel Deering and several batteries of artillery under Lieu-
tenant-Colonel James Branch, constituted the attacking force, all
under General Hoke's command.
Plymouth was garrisoned by four regiments of infantry, two
companies of heavy and one battery of light artillery, two com-
panies of cavalry and two companies recruited in North Carolina,
aided by the gunboats Miami, Southfield, Whitehead and Ceres.
The town was protected from river attack from the direction of
Weldon by Fort Grey at Warren's Neck, manned by one one
hundred pound and two thirty-two pound cannon, and above
and below the fort the river was blockaded to prevent any
vessel from getting past. The town is flanked on the west end
by a woody marsh and on the east by a woody swamp, through
w^hich runs Conaby Creek, a narrow but deep stream. Fort
Wessells m the western, F'ort Williams in the central and Fort Com-
fort in the eastern part of the town command the approaches
from the west, south and east respectively; while a strong
breastwork with redoubts at intervals encircles the town. On
the west there is an entrenched camp close to the river with a
two hundred pound cannon in position at battery Worth, a
gun intended expressly for the Ram Albemarle, says Major John
Graham in his valuable account of the battle. These forts,
redoubts and breastworks were laid out after the most approved
military engineering skill, protected by moats and palisades and
chevaux de frise — while the fleet of gunboats defended the river
front of the town. Plymouth was a formidable fortress amply
( 22 )
(Benerttl yttatt W, Ransom
garrisoned and provisioned, and with a fleet of gunboats to aid
the land defenses.
General Hoke assembled his forces at Tarboro and set out from
that place on April 15, 1864, arriving near Plvmotxth on the
afternoon of Sunday the 17th. Detaching Kemper's brigade
with Deering's cavalry and two batteries of artillery to attack
Fort Grey, Hoke's and Ransom's brigades circling around, ap-
proach the town from the south by way of the Washington
road, and about dark rest on their arms. Next day towards
evening. Fort Grey having been captured, Hoke's and Kemper's
brigades assault Fort Wessells. Ransom's brigade makes a
demonstration in aid of this assault with fourteen pieces of
artillery placed close to and threatening Fort Williams.
A correspondent of the Richmond Examiner thus graphically
describes the scene :
"The action couimenced about sunset; the night being perfectly clear
with a full moon, every object visible. The sight was magnificent. The
screaming, hissing shells meeting and passing each other through the
sulphurus air appeared like blazing comets with their burning fires, and
would burst with frightful noise, scattering their fragments as thick as
hail. The gunboats had come to the assistance of the besieged forts and
their fire added grandeur to the sight."
After repeated assaults, in which Colonel Mercer, leading Hoke's
brigade, is mortally wotmded, and Captain Macon, of the Forty-
third regiment, and many others were killed, the commander
of the Fort having been killed, it surrenders. This closes the sec-
ond day's fighting on the part of the land forces. Let us for a
moment see what the Ram Albemarle has been doing. On the
morning of Monday, April 18, she left her mooring at Hamilton,
under command of Captain James W. Cooke, a. native of the
Forges were erected on her deck, blacksmiths and carpenters
were kept hard at work, as she floated down the stream going
stern foremost. The river was in a freshet; the proverbial in-
habitant quotes, Mr. Elliot, her builder, said afterwards, "such
high water had never before been seen in the Roanoke River."
This was providential. It gave ten feet of water over the tor-
( 23 )
(General yttalt W, transom
pedoes, sunken vessels and piles that formed the barricade at Fort
Grey, and reaching these about two a. m., they were safely passed
under a fire from Fort Grey, which was not returned. Pro-
ceeding down the river, battery Worth, with its two hundred
pound cannon, was also safely passed, when the gunboats,
Miami and Southfield, lashed together, were met steaming up to
the defense of the town; Captain Cooke dashing his prow in the
side of the Southfield, she went down in less time than it takes to
tell the story. Entangled in the frame of the sinking vessel, the
Albemarle is in danger of sinking herself, and the Miami, seeing
her perilous situation, steamed up to her side and opened fire with
her nine inch one hundred pound Parrot rifles. So close were the
vessels that Captain Flusser, commanding the Miami, Lieutenant
Andrews' opponent in the Rainbow Bend fight in 1862, is killed
by one of his own shells that rebounded after striking the Ram
and exploding, tearing him all to pieces. The Albemarle now
turning upon the Miami, the latter is soon disabled and seeks
safet}^ in flight. Having cleared the river of the gunboats, the
Albemarle returns to Plymouth to assist in its capture.
As the result of the two days' fighting. General Hoke has cap-
tured Forts Grey and Wessells, completely invested the town,
the Albemarle has pitt hors de combat the fleet of gunboats in
the river, and now comes General Ransom's opportunity.
He is to assault at daybreak on the 20th (Wednesday) with his
brigade and artillery, the line of forts and breastworks on the
southern and eastern side of the town. In the afternoon of the
19th Ransom begins his movement. Protecting his men by a de-
tour through the woods, he arrives after dark at the banks of
Conaby Creek. By the uncertain light of the moon he drives the
enenn^ entrenched, at the bridge crossing Conaby Creek at the
Columbia road, from their strong position; he then pontoons the
stream and by midnight he has his command safely across, and
in line of battle to make the assault next morning. General Wes-
sells, the Federal commander, speaks of this passage of Conaby
Creek as a "great disaster," says it is "unexplained" and attri-
btites to it much of the misfortunes of the next day. Undoubt-
edly it was a tactical move on the part of General Ransom of the
(Beneral ^att. ^. Ransom
greatest importance, effected with slight loss to his men and pro-
phetic of his greatest success next day.
During the night the Thirty-fifth regiment is taken from its
regular position in the brigade formation and placed near the
centre opposite Fort Comfort, the most formidable of the de-
fenses on the east side.
All arrangements made for the next day's battle, the men are
allowed to lie down and rest.
Says Major John W. Graham, of the Fifty-sixth regiment: "It is
now near midnight and the men lay down on the bare ground; the
air is sharp and piercing. The enemy keep up a shelling through the
night; our Iron Clad, the Albemarle, exchanges shots with the two hundred
pound gun at the upper end of the town (Battery Worth). The night is
perfectly calm and cloudless, with a full moon lending beauty to the
scene, the skirmishing is at times sharp and terrific. Just as the moon
is going down (and day breaks) a rocket shoots up in the air, and Hoke
is advised that Ransom is about to attack. "
On horseback with drawn sword, Ransom appears along his
line, and his ringing voice, says Captain Graham in the sketch of
his regiment, the Fifty-sixth, comes down the line, "Attention,
brigade. Fix bayonets. Trail arms. Forward march," and the
charge begins. Officers and men are animated with but one deter-
mination, to be the first to enter the enemy's works. On the right
the Fifty-sixth and Twenty-fifth regiments are impeded by a
swamp in places waist deep, but they flounder through and at-
tack and roitte a regiment posted at the outer line of the town.
The Eighth and Twenty-fourth regiments respectively capture re-
doubts on the left of the Columbia Road. It falls to the lot of
the Thirty-fifth regiment to assault Fort Comfort. Reaching the
deep ditch surrounding the fortification, the men rush in, climb
up its sides bristling with guns, crowd through the embrasures,
over the parapet and wherever they can find an entrance, and
are in possession of the work before the defenders recover from
the audacitj' of the attack. The enemy now retreat into the
houses, making barricades of them, and fire from the upper
Reforming his brigade. General Ransom successfulh' carries the
works on the river; then a fight from house to house takes
( 25 )
(Beneral Mtatt ^. Ransom
place. The enemy at length driven from all their positions, losing
some two thousand prisoners, the balance flee to Fort Williams,
the main fortification of the town. Preparatory to assaulting.
General Ransom makes a reconnaissance of the fort, and finds it too
formidable for capture by infantry, and signals to the Albemarle
to open fire on the same. Hoke's troops on the west side of the
town having now united with Ransom's from the east side, they
surround the fort and General Ransom sends Colonel Deering,
then acting on his staff, to demand its surrender.
It is at first refused, but a few shots from the Albemarle
exploding inside the fort, about 10 a. ni., a white flag is seen
above the parapet, and sending for General Hoke, after a brief
interview, General Wessells surrenders. The latter admits a loss
of two thousand, eight hundred and thirty-four killed, wounded
and prisoners, and some three thousand stand of small arms.
In addition the armaments of the numerous forts and redoubts
and large quantities of commissary and quartermaster supplies
fell into the hands of the victors.
General Ransom at once telegraphed Mrs. Ransom as follows:
"I am safe, my brigade greatly distinguished itself" In a letter
he writes :
"I send you a short dispatch telling you of our victorj'. Thanks to
our Heavenly Father, I am safe without any injury. Today I am on
the gunboat Albemarle, and her gallant commander. Captain Cooke,
sends you some presents. I nmst tell you that ni^^ brigade has im-
mortalized itself. The charge and storming of the forts was the noblest
thing of the war. I wish you could have seen it. How merciful God
has been to me. I intend to be confirmed when the Bishop comes. We
are all well. Kiss the dear boys. God bless and preserve us and bring
us together in joy and love."
General Hoke was telegraphed by President Davis his con-
gratulations and promotion to be Major-General. Later, Colonel
Deering was promoted Brigadier-General. Lieutenant-Colonel
Gaston Lewis, commanding Hoke's brigade after death of Colonel
Mercer, was made Brigadier-General, and Matt. W. Ransom, the
hero of the third and last day's battle by which the town's sur-
render was brought about, received no promotion. 'Tis true the
General Assembly of the State at its next special session in May
( 26 )
(Beiteral ^att W. Ransom
following, united his name with General Hoke's and Commander
Cooke's in joint resolution of thanks to the officers and men of
their respective commands for this brilliant victory, and the
Confederate Congress passed similar resolutions, but there was
no promotion of rank. Ransom planned and executed the day's
bloody work. He called his Colonels to give them their orders on
the night before the assault, but he asked no counsel from them.
A great general needs no counsel of war to advise him. Imagine
CjEsar asking what to do at Parsalia, or Hannibal while cross-
ing the Alps, or Napoleon at AusterHtz.
Stonewall Jackson once called his subordinates into council and
said he would never repeat the act, and General Lee assumed
alone the responsibiHty for the defeat at Gettysburg. General
Hoke gave Ransom a free hand at Plymouth and neither had
cause to regret it.
General Hoke halted at Plymouth only long enough to rest his
men. On April 25 he sets out to capture Washington, North Caro-
lina. He reached that town next day. During the night the
enemy evacuated the place. Pursuing the retreating enemy Gen-
eral Hoke has his command investing New Bern, and ready for
itjJljSsault on May 6, when he is peremptoril}- recalled to Peters-
burg by telegrams from President Davis and General Lee, and
making one of the most rapid marches on record, reaches Peters-
burg on the 10th, just in time to assist in repelling General But-
ler, who has advanced from City Point on that city.
On May 12 Ransom's brigade is on the extreme right of the
Confederate line defending Drewry's Bluif. The enemy concealed
by the woods get around his right flank and attack him from
the rear. His men jumping over the works make a brave defense
until night comes on, and they retire to an inner line of defense.
Here Captain Cicero Durham, commanding a battaHon of sharp-
shooters, known as the fighting quartermaster of the Forty-
ninth, was mortally, and Lieutenant Waverly Johnson, of Gen-
eral Ransom's staff, painfully wounded. On the 13th the brigade
is attacked with overwhelming force. After gallantly repulsing
the same, though flanked on the right and the enemy in its rear,
( 27 )
(Beucral tJttatt. W. Ransom
the brigade held its own until night came on, and it falls back to
the main line of defense.
On the next da}^ (May 14) while ralljnng his line of sharp-
shooters, General Ransom is shot in the left arm hj a minnie ball.
The ball shattered both bones of the forearm and the surgeons
at first advised an amputation. Dr. Charles J. O'Hagan, the
surgeon of his old regiment and his personal friend, opposed am-
putation ; and cutting off the ends of the splintered bones, it was
left to nature to unite the separated parts, and in due time the
surgeon's prognosis was verified, and though shorter, the arm
became serviceable and the use of the hand preserved.
]t is not tmtil the fall that General Ransom is able to join his
brigade, then in the trenches at Petersburg defending the line
from the Appomattox River eastwardly to the Jerusalem Road.
ASSAULT OF FORT STEDMAN, MARCH 25, 1865.;
Ransom's brigade, which had been continuously in the trenches
around Petersburg from June 17, 1864, except an occasional
detail as reinforcement to the troops on the right of the Confed-
erate line, such as the engagement at the Jones House, south of
Petersburg, June 22, the Crater, July 30, and the Davis Hoi|se,
August 21, was on March 16, 1865, ordered to the extreme
ri^ht of the Confederate line at Hatcher's Run. Ordered to
return to the trenches on the 24th, before day light on the 25th
the brigade finds itself on famihar ground near the line between
the City Point and the Norfolk Railroad, fronting the enemy's
stronghold. Fort Stedman, located at Hare's Hill.
' Ransom is put in command of Wallace's South Carolinabrigade
in addition to his own. It now develops that the enemy's lines
are to be assaulted at Fort Stedman in the hope of cutting them
in two, and by the assistance of Pickett's division from our lines
north of the Appomattox to defeat that portion of Grant's army
investing Petersburg. To Major-General John B. Gordon is
assigned the honor of commanding the attacking forces. Gen-
eral Lee had consulted Generals Gordon and Ransom about this
movement. Gordon thought well of it. Ransom was doubtful.
Doubtless it was the dire necessitj' of the situation that dcter-
( 28 )
(Betiaral tJttatt. ^. Ransom
mined General Lee to make the attempt. He would anticipate
Grant in the opening of the spring campaign. It was a forlorn
hope, but those brave men with bright muskets, but faded uni-
forms, who had carried the fortune of the Confederacy for four
years on the point of their bayonets
"Did not make reply.
Did not reason why,
But went to do and die."
Says Adjutant Thomas R. Roulhac :
"Just at daylight we advanced to the assault, Ransom's brigade di-
rectly in front of Hare's Hill (Fort Stedman). At the signal the sharp-
shooters of the Forty-ninth regiment, under First Lieutenant Thomas R.
Roulhac, following the storming party led by Lieutenant W. W. Flem-
ing, of the Sixth North Carolina regiment, moved across our works,
through the obstructions in our front, and the whole brigade with a
rush, climbed the chavaux de frise of the enemy, and clambering through
and over the deep ditches in their front, went over the enemy's works,
and captured them before they aroused from their slumbers. The sur-
piise was complete.
"Sweeping down their lines the Forty-ninth opened the way for other
troops, and Fort Stedman was in our hands. The expected assistance
from the troops north of the Appomattox did not arrive. The enemy
were given time to concentrate, and soon from both flanks and from the
front Grant moved overwhelming forces against the small number of
Confederates holding the captured works. Then one by one the Confed-
erate forces give way, and return as best they can to their <jwn defenses
— shattered, bleeding at every pore, decimated, but undismayed. The
enemy do not attempt to follow them, and with a loss of two thousand
nine hundred and forty-nine, killed wounded and captured, this
famous assault passes into history as one of the most brilliant, most
desperate in the annals of the war."
In his report of the battle. General Lee says :
"The two brigades commanded by General Ransom behaved most
handsomely. Ransom's brigade lost seven hundred men in all."
BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS.
Without resting Ransom is ordered to return to the extreme of
the Confederate right and oppose Sheridan in the latter's attempt
to turn the Confederate right flank, and get possession of the
Southside Railroad. Ransom is to unite his forces with Pickett's
(B^aeral ^alt. ^. !^atisom
division in aid of the cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee, taking position
first at Burgess Mill on Hatcher's Run. On March 30, Ran-
som's brigade drove the enemy back into his entrenchments, and
uniting with Pickett they march down the White Oak Road to
Five Forks in Dinwiddie County, and on 31st of March engage
in battle with Sheridan's cavalry, driving them back in "discom-
fiture." Sheridan informs Grant this force is too strong for him,
and at ten p. m., Grant notifies him, "Warren's corps and Mac-
Kenzie's cavalry have been sent to his assistance."
The Confederates during the night retire to their works at Five
Forks, and Sheridan, reinforced by Warren's corps and Mac-
Kenzie's cavalry, begins at daybreak an advance, and on April 1,
1865, is fought the battle of Five Forks, the last organized bat.
tie between the armies of the Potomac and of Northern Virginia.
In 1895 I called to pay my respects to General Longstreet at
his home near Gains ville, Georgia. During the interview the Gen-
eral spoke most feelingly of the gallantry of the North Carolina
soldiers and desired me to convey to General Ransom his per-
sonal regards and high esteem; and requested me to say to him
that he (General Longstreet) had just completed his account of
the battle of Five Forks, to be published in the book he was
writing, and that the North Carolina soldiers had never, to his
knowledge, acted more gallantly than in that battle, so disas-
trous to the Confederate cause. 1 felt emboldened after this to
say to General Longstreet that I had read in some paper, that he
had replied in answer to an inquiry as to the respective gallantry
of the soldiers from the different States, that he found as the gen-
eral result of a battle there were more North Carolina soldiers
killed and wounded in proportion to their numbers engaged, and
more of the enemy killed and wounded in frontof where the North
Carolinians fought, than was the case with the troops from any
other State; and asked him if he had so stated. He answered me,
"substantially so, yes," such has been my experience with the
North Carolina soldiers I have had the honor to command."
A concluding word about this
( 30 )
(Setieral Mlatt. W. Ransom
BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS, APRIL t, 1865.
The Confederate troops consisted of Corse's, Terry's and
Stuart's brigades of Pickett's Division, commanded by Major-
General George Pickett, and Wallace's South Carolina and Ran-
som's North Carolina brigade of Bushrod Johnson's Division, com-
manded by General Ransom, and the cavalry divisions of Rosser,
W. H. F. Lee and Fitzhugh Lee, commanded by the latter, a
total of about seven thousand men of all arms.
The Federal forces were the First, Second and Third Cavalry
Divisions, nine thousand men; First, Second and Third Infantry
Divisions of Warren's corps, five batteries of artillery, fifteen
thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven men, andMacKenzie's
cavalry one thousand strong, all under command of General
Phil. H. Sheridan.
The Confederate forces were occupying the works along the
White Oak road at the junction of three roads; hence the name
Five Forks. They faced to the east. General Sheridan's plan of
battle, he writes in his report, was to make a feint with his cav-
alry to turn the Confederate right flank, and meanwhile quietly
move up Warren's fifth corps with a view to attacking the Con-
federate left flank, crush the whole force, and drive westward
those who might escape, thus isolating them from their army at
The Confederate forces at the beginning of the battle were
posted as follows: /
On their right the cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee, in which was
Barringer's North Carolina brigade, which so distinguished
itself at the awful fight at Chamberlain's Run the day before.
Next on the left, Pickett's division, next to Pickett's, Ransom's
command, two brigades, and on his left, Mumford's cavalry con-
necting with Brigadier-General Roberts' brigade, which filled the
gap between our left and the right of our main army at Burgess'
Mills, several miles distant.
By two o'clock p. m.,the Federal cavalry, under Generals Mer-
rit and Custer, have the Confederate cavalry at Five Forks hard
pressed ; but the latter held their ground with a determination
and grim tenacity never surpassed. It is between four and five
(Beneral Mtalt W, yiansoxa
o'clock before Warren advances. Sheridan complains of his
delay and that night relieves Warren of his command. Shielding
the movement of his infantry under the operations of the cavalry,
Warren's corps advances through the undefended lines on the
left of the Confederates ; getting completely in their rear. Deploy-
ing his columns Sheridan begins hisattack with Ayre's division on
Ransom's extreme left held by the Twenty-fourth regiment. At first
the enemy are successfully resisted, several distinct charges have
been repulsed, but Griihn's Federal division now appearing on the
scene, soon to be followed by Crawford's, the handful of Confed-
erates are swept away, and the Fifty-sixth, Twenty-fifth, Forty-
ninth and Thirty-fifth regiments are successively driven from their
works. They form from time to time these new lines of battle,
ignorant that Crawford's and Griffin's divisions have gotten en-
tirely around them and are attacking Pickett in the rear with
overwhelming force. General Ransom conceives it his duty to
make one final charge to break through the enveloping lines. One
horse has been killed under him. He sends for his favorite charger,
a thoroughbred stallion named Ion. Captain Steriing H. Gee,
his brigade Adjutant, has been killed, and Lieutenant R. B.
Peebles, the Adjutant ot his old regiment, is promoted on the field
to take Captain Gee's place.
Calling on his brigade to follow him, bareheaded, on his superb
war horse, who smelleth the battle at hand and is eager for the
fray, obeying the slightest command of its rider. Ransom leads
his brigade for the last time in a charge against the enemy.
Emerging from the woods, as he appears in front of his advanc-
ing line the enemy, who are in line of battle just beyond, open
fire. As the smoke clears away, rider and horse are seen on the
ground, the rider underneath. A cry runs down the hne, "Our
General is shot," and men rush to save him from capture. The
enemy see the act and a message is wired to Major-General
Thomas, of the Federal army, that his kinsman. General Ransom,
has been killed.
But not so— Captain Johnson, of the Thirty-fifth, and Captain
Sherrill, of the Forty-ninth regiments, rush forward and find the
( 32 )
(General ^att. >>^. Ransom
General unhurt, but pinioned under his horse and in danger of
being crushed in the dying struggles of the noble animal. When
shot the horse reared high up in the air and fell backward on his
rider, who, with his wounded arm in a sling, is powerless to
With the enemy now closing in on both flanks and from the
front, and no hope of assistance, there is no thought of sur-
render; sable night setting down on the gory scene favors the
few survivors, and General Ransom and the remnants of his com-
mand, in the langtiage of Colonel Rutledge, of the Twenty-fifth
regiment, "backed through the small loop hole left, emptying
into the enemy's faces the last cartridge we had." We are here
reminded of Marshal Ney firing the last musket in the retreat of
the grand army from Moscow. During the night General Ran-
som with the brave few left unites with General Anderson's corps
on the Southside railroad. The noble cavalry under Fitzhugh
Lee, and especially Barringer's North Carolina brigade, all that
was left of it, after their dreadful losses at the passage of Cham-
berlain's Creek the da\^ before, heroically breast the enemy's ad-
vance, and slowly falling back take position at Pott's Station, on
the Southside railroad, about two miles from the battlefield.
From April 1 until the surrender at Appomattox on the 9th,
the retreat of the Confederate army was one series of disasters,
until at the end, only seven thousand, eight hundred and ninety-
two organized infantry, sixty-three pieces of artillery, twenty-
one hundred eifective cavalrj-- remained of the once proud and
conquering army of Northern Virginia. Ransom surrendered at
Appomattox, forty-one officers and three hundred and ninety-one
enlisted men. Dating from his commision as Lieutenant-Colonel
of the First regiment, May 8, 1861, General Ransom served four
years, lacking twenty-nine days, as a Confederate soldier.
On his journey home from Appomattox, the brigade head-
quarter's wagon with all his belongings was lost, and when Gen-
eral Ransom joined his family at Warrenton, North Carolina, he
had to accept from his brother, the necessary garments for a
change of clothing.
General Ransom was not a Martinet. He was never known to
( 33 )
(Betteral >ltatt. >>^. Ransom
court martial or put an officer under arrest, never had a private
punished or put on extra duty, never asked for a court martial in
any case, and never preferred a charge against an officer or pri-
vate, but the discipline of his command v^^as excellent. He
placed great confidence in young officers. He had many
such in his brigade. His Adjutant atSharpsburg and Fredericks-
burg, was a mere boy of sixteen years, the present eminent
Chief Justice of your State. On one occasion vsrhen a vacancy
in the Colonel cj^ of one of the regiments in the brigade
was to be filled, and the next in rank was a young man
under twenty-one years of age, the brigade commander op-
posed the promotion of the "boy," as he termed him; Colonel
Ransom did not sympathize with this view of his brother, the
General; and the heroic conduct of this young Colonel on the
battlefield of Gettysburg vindicated Colonel Ransom's better
General Ransom was sympathetic with his soldiers in their
privations and misfortunes. I have this incident from General
Ransom's friend and i-elative. Dr. F. J. Picot. One day not far
from Petersburg General Ransom rode upon a file of soldiers tak-
ing a prisoner out to be shot. He stopped and enquired the
cause. The man having been refused a furlough for one night,
and encamped only a short distance from his home, ran away
for a few hours to see his wife and children, intending to return
to his command the next day, but somehow missed it on the line
of march, was arrested, tried and condemned as a deserter. The
poor fellow's narrative convinced General Ransom of his inno-
cence of intent to desert.
General Ransom ordered the escort not to shoot him before his
return, saying, as he wheeled his horse and spurring to the full
run, "I'll try my man. I'll try my poor fellow." In a brief
time he returned from General Lee's headquarters, his horse and
himself CO vered with mud, waving the reprieve above his head.
It is of pathetic interest to know that this soldier, the next day,
was killed by a musket ball through the heart received in the
fore front of battle.
<Ben(tral ^att. W, transom
In Judge Montgomery's interesting account of "Appomattox
and the return home," I quote this passage:
"We heard of General Ransom along our road, heliring the tired and
footsore, often dismounting and placing such in his saddle, and speaking
to them words of hope and cheer. We greatly wished to come up with
him and to talk to him, for we had great interest and pride in him. We
had watched his career as a soldier, which had reflected honor on his
State and upon the South, and especially his strikingly brilliant conduct
at Five Forks a few days before."
General Ransom never became a master of tactics, the drill
was irksome to him. He probably undervalued the importance
of both, but as his rank increased and his perspective of a battle-
field enlarged, he instinctively seized upon the strategic points in
a fight and was always equal to the occasion. At Sharpsburg in
the temporary absence of his superior, and though junior in rank,
he commanded and handled his brigade in a way to excite the
admiration of his soldiers, and command the encomiums of his
At Boon's Mill, when he had himself alone to rely upon, on
which occasion he was chased for two miles by the resolute and
confident enemy before he reached his own command, his pres-
ence of mind never left him, and he turns upon his pursuers and
defeats them with one-fifth the number of soldiers opposed to
him. At Plymouth he measures up to the capacity of a com-
mander of the first rank in storming and capturing the defenses
on the eastern side of the town and compelling the surrender of
its garrison. He was fortunate above his comrades in being a
commander in the only two victories gained in the State in the
four years of the war, and his good fortune did not desert him at
the end, for he was privileged to command in the last organized
battle of the armies in Virginia, and was with his soldiers when
they gave their paroles at Appomattox.
Time forbids us to extend this story. We reluctantly leave
this brief sketch of General Ransom's military career. Of all
North Carolinians I would liken him most to General William R.
Davie, the accomplished soldier of the Revolution, member of the
( 35 )
(General Mtatt. ^. Ransom
United States Congress, representative of his Country abroad,
orator, statesman, patriot.
Listen to the story, ray countrymen.
Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
RANSOM IN CIVIL LIFE AFTER THE WAR.
To close the account of the Confederate soldier with his sur-
render, would not complete the record of his great services to his
country. For years after Appomattox the Confederate soldier
fought a harder fight and against greater odds in civil life than
when he confronted an armed enemy on the field of battle.
From 1868 to 1871, our homes, our property, our civilization
hung in the balance, with a National Government hostile, foreign
nations unsympathetic, our State Government in arms against
us and our former slaves, our legislators, and in charge of our
county affairs, any people but the white people of the South
would have given up. Not so the soldiers who had followed Lee
and Jackson and our own leaders. Hill, Branch, Grimes, Scales,
Fettigrew, Hoke, Ransom and Jarvis, and those in civil life. Gov-
ernors Graham and Bragg and Vance, Judges Merrimon and Bat-
tle, B. F. Moore and Josiah H. Turner, Jr.
JUDGE GEORGE W. BROOKS AND HABEAS CORPUS.
On July 1, 1868, Honorable W. W. Holden took the oath of of-
fice as Governor, under what is known as the "Canby Constitu-
tion." On March 7, 1870, Governor Holden declared the County
of Alamance in insurrection, and on July 8 following he likewise
declared the County of Caswell in insurrection. In June, July
and August Governor Holden organized some five hundred
soldiers under the command of George W, Kirk, of Tennessee, as
Colonel, and having suspended the w^rit of "habeas corpus" by his
proclamations, these soldiers under Colonel Kirk and his subordi-
nates arrested numerous citizens of the counties of Alamance and
Caswell, under charges of being members of the Ku Klux Klan
and guilty of the murder of J. W. Stephens and Wyatt Outlaw.
On July 15, 1870, Adolphus G. Moore, of Alamance, was arrested
by Kirk, and the next day he sued out a writ of "habeas corpus''
( 36 )
(General tJttalt. XO, yiansom.
before Chief Justice Pearson, Captain E. S. Parker and Judge A.
S. Merrimon, his counsel. The writ was delivered to A. C. McAlis-
ter, now of Graham, North Carolina, who on the following day,
which was Sunday, July 17, 1870, served the same on Colonel
Kirk as his command rested about nine miles from Company
Shops (Burhngton) on the road to Yanceyville, Kirk's reply
was, "Tell them such things are played out. I have my orders
from Governor Holden, and shall not obey the writ. I will sur-
render my prisoners as Governor Holden orders, but not other-
wise, unless they send a sufficient force to whip me."
This answer was reported to Judge Pearson on the 18th. The
Judge notifies Governor Holden that Colonel Kirk refused to
make return to the writ, and asked if Kirk was acting under the
Governor's orders. On the next day Governor Holden replies
that "Colonel Kirk made the arrests and now detains the
prisoners by my orders." The Judge thereupon announced as his
decision that the Governor had no power to disobey the writ of
"habeas corpus," and issued an order that Mr. Moore be brought
forthwith before him and directed the same to the Marshal of
his court with instructions to exhibit it and a copy of his
opinion to the Governor with this famous statement: "If he, the
Governor, orders the petitioner to be delivered to the Marshal,
well. If not, following the example of Chief Justice Taney in the
Merrimon case, I have discharged my duty. The power of the
Judiciary is exhausted, and the responsibility must rest on the
Executive." Governor Holden in reply, under date of July 26,
1870, gives his reasons at length for refusing to obey the writ
and Judge Pearson declines to take any further action.
The condition of those in confinement, the best and most influ-
ential citizens in their respective communities, now no hope of
release by the process of the law, a Court Martial organized to
try them ordered to convene in a few days, was so deplorable
that a few determined and able men came to the city of Raleigh
to consult as a committee of safety on the liberties of the people.
Governors Graham and Bragg, Honorable B. P. Moore, Judge W,
H. Battle and his two sons and others met at Judge Battle's
(General ^alt ^. Ransom
office last of July. General Ransom was telegraphed to athishome
to attend, and he came at once.
The situation was laboriously and carefully gone over. It was
thought useless to apply to the United States civil authorities, as
Governor Holden had called upon President Grant for his aid,
and the State's representatives in the United States Congress
w^ere urging upon that body to pass a Federal statute suspend-
ing the writ of "habeas corpus" in North Carolina.
General Ransom asked for a copy of the fourteenth amendment
to the United States Constitution lately proclaimed; and relying
upon its words, "All persons born or naturalized in the United
States are citizens of the United States, and no State shall
deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due
process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction,
the equal protection of the law," he advised that application be
made to the United States District Judge, George W. Brooks, at
Elizabeth City, for a writ of "habeas corpus." His suggestion pre-
vailed, and General Ransom was requested to see Judge Brooks
in person and make the application, and Josiah Turner, Jr., was
to be the petitioner. Riding on a locomotive from Raleigh to
save time, General Ransom reached Elizabeth Citj, Saturday
afternoon about supper time, July 30, 1870.
At once seeking the Judge at his home, he opened the subject of
his visit. From then till late at night the matter was discussed,
but without avail. After breakfast the next morning General
Ransom again called upon His Honor, and remained to dinner,
and in the afternoon they took a walk along the shore of that
beautiful sheet of water, on which Elizabeth City is located. We
can well imagine General Ransom never ceased to plead his cause.
At dinner the Reverend Thomas P. Crowder, the Methodist
minister, now living near Suffolk, Virginia, joined the party, and
with his inimitable grace and unsurpassed diplomacy. General
Ransom proceeded to enlist Mrs. Brooks and the Divine on his
side. That he succeeded goes without saying.
During the dinner this took place. Bowing to Mrs. Brooks
and the clerg^nuan, General Ransom remarks, "I will have to
get Mrs. Brooks and Mr. Crowder to join me in my petition, as
( 38 )
(Beneral !5ttatt W. tJ\ansom
we now stand one to one. The Judge on one side and I on the
other." Mr. Crowder is the first to respond, and turning to the
good lady he says, "Sister Brooks, I always believe in joining the
weaker side; we will have to help the General here and petition
the Judge; what say you?" What could the noble woman say
but, "Brother Crowder, I agree with you."
After all the General's arguments, eloquence and tact, His
Honor is not fully pursuaded and does not then issue the writ,
but when General Ransom left early the next morning for his
home, he carried this from Judge Brooks: "If I were satisfied I
had the power to issue the writ I would do so. These men ought
to have a fair and impartial hearing somewhere. Leave with me
your copy of the fourteenth amendment, which happily General
Ransom had brought with him, and I will let you hear from me."
We know the result. On August 6, 1870, Judge Brooks arrived
in Raleigh. Messrs. Moore, Battle, Graham, Bragg and Merri-
mon sign a petition on behalf of Josiah Turner, Jr., praying for
the writ, the same is sworn to by James H. Moore before Judge
Brooks himself, and the Judge issues the writ commanding Kirk,
in the name of the President of the United States, to produce his
prisoners before him at Salisbury on August 18, 1870.
Governor Holden dies game. On August 7 he writes President
Grant, denying Judge Brooks' right to interfere, and says, "It is
my purpose to detain the prisoners unless the army of the United
States under your orders shall detnand them."
The Attorney-General of the United States replies next day by
direction of President Grant and closes his letter as follows: "I
advise that the State authorities yield to the United States Ju-
diciary." At the trial in Salisbury, Colonel Kirk marches into
the court room with his prisoner under military escort. He is
indignantly ordered out of the room by the Judge. The trial pro-
ceeds, its record reads as follows: "No cause being shown for the
capture and detention of the prisoner, it is ordered by His Honor
that he be discharged and allowed to go without day, and that
George W. Kirk pay the cost of the proceedings to be taxed by
the clerk of this covirt."
Judge Brooks died in January, 1881, and his remains repose
( 39 )
(General yttalt Xf?* Ransom
under a monument in Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City,
erected by his wife. This upright Judge, this noble Christian
woman, his wife, the petitioner and his able and faithful
attorneys, the gallant soldier, accomplished statesman, orator
and diplomat, have gone to their rewards, but, "lest we forget,"
"These are deeds which should not pass away
And names that must not wither tho' the earth,
Forgets her Empires with a just decay
The enslavers and enslaved; their death and birth."
RANSOM IN CIVIL LIFE.
From February, 1872, until March 4, 1895, General Ransom was
United States Senator. Time forbids me, at this late hour, to
attempt more than a reference to these twenty-three years of
service in that most august body of Representatives of Sovereign
States. General Ransom spoke but seldom in the Senate; for
this he has been censured by the thoughtless. But those who
saw beneath the surface, now realize the supreme wisdom of
this self-restraint, for who can doubt it was but self-restraint in
carrying out the great object of his political existence, "the
sacred purpose to reconcile the once divided people of his coun-
try," that he did not often speak in the Senate. He begins his
great speech on the "South Faithful to Her Duties," in these
words, which are the key note of his senatorial career: "For
nearly three years I have sat silently in this chamber with the
hope that by pursuing a course, as I thought, of impartial and
patriotic duty towards all and every part of the country, I might
have some influence in satisf3'ing Northern Senators that the
South desired peace with the North, and a restored and fra-
ternal union of all the States of the Republic," and this sacred
purpose remained to the end. But he was vigilant of all that
was going on. "General Ransom," writes a brother Senator in
1891, "regards nothing lightly" that transpires in the Senate;
his State is first above all in his thoughts and affections.
In respect of the Force bill campaign. Gen. Ransom looked as
nearly to the bottom of the gulf we so nearly plunged into as any
other man, and I was grieved to see how he was impressed in
mind and body, with fearful apprehensions of the danger. It
<Ben<tral yttalX, W, yiansom
was on this crisis of the South's political fortunes that the wis-
dom of Gen. Ransom's course in the Senate became manifest.
Going to the Vice-President and to Senators Hoar and Aldnch,
he su'^ceeded, as probably no other Southern Senator could have
succeeded, in getting the journals of the Senate amended so as to
establish the exact history of the proceedings, "without which,
falsehood would have suplemented outrage, and our cause would
have been lost," says Senator Morgan.
If for the reasons above given Senator Ransom spoke but sel-
dom in the Senate, how different was his course in his own State.
What election was ever on in North Carolina, from 1872 to 1905,
that Ransom's clarion voice was not heard rallying his followers
from the mountains to the seas. Who having once heard one of
those campaign speeches ever forgot it. There was no anec-
dote telling, no vituperation, no misrepresentations; but he ap-
pealed to the patriotism of his hearers; to their love of home; to
their fidelitv to duty; to their inteUigent understanding of the
respective poHcies of the two political parties and with merciless
criticism and inexorable logic brought conviction to the hearers
of the wisdom of the course he advocated.
Of the effect of his oratory I ask your indulgence while I read
two letters written to the Senator after two of these speeches.
One bears date July 28, 1900, and is so characteristic of the
writer it is unnecessary to name him.
"I thank you most noble citizen for the beautiful and ^4se counsel
ffiven our veterans and young manhood. Full of years and laden with
honors, you put away all personal considerations and laid befo'-e our
people the beauty of duty well done, and patriotically accomplished. 1
open the secrets of my inner soul to you, and render homage to your
services. . ,
"When I heard vou were coming, I framed an introduction to bespoken
in your presence! It happened that this agreeable task was taken over
by other and very capable hands. I coveted the privilege of setting the
audience aflame with my ardor if not vehemence. I know your taste and
refinement in this respect so well I could have added to your gratifica-
tion if not to your happiness by my zeal and directness. I had the images
in mind which I meant to rear and salute, and around these I hoped to
shed light. Even Ajax prayed for light."
( 41 )
<B(^neral ^att. "W, ^ajtsom
The other letter was written on Christmas Eve, 1903. The
writer has since died. He was an upright man, an able lawyer,
an unselfish patriot. We may hope the two are again united in
those bonds of mutual friendship and esteem never to be severed.
''Dear Senator, Soldier and Citizen :
"Thank God that I have lived in your day, and that your example has
been before me and my children, and will be long imitated by those as-
piring to good and noble deeds ; that your faithfulness shall be an ever
present example for the youth of the State you loved and served so
well ; that I'm permitted to tell you in the flesh how I appreciate you.
In this season of memorA- of all that is good, beautiful and true. Thou
example of courage, fortitude and noble life. I rejoice that I do you
reverence and homage."
Captain S. A. Ashe writes as follows:
"As an orator General Ransom was superb; his powers being of the
highest order. Some of his campaign speeches were masterful, so elo-
quent, so powerful that well informed men have declared that they
could not be equalled by any other living American."
On the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification by North
Carolina of the Constitution of the United States, held at Fay-
etteville, November 21, 1889, Senator Ransom was the orator of
the occasion. The Marine Band from Washington, D. C, came
down to honor the occasion and the speaker, and seldom if ever
before was there such a large gathering of representative men
and women of the State. Senator Ransom regarded his address
on this occasion as his greatest oratorical effort. The subject
matter of his discourse had for months occupied his thoughts,
and never before had he taken such labor in the preparation of a
speech. He was applied to for a cop}^ for publication, but with that
remarkable disregard of self which was so inexplicable at times,
he neglected to comply with the committee's request, and now
alas! the great intellect that created it and the noble patriotism
that inspired it are buried in the grave.
In 1902 Senator Ransom was invited by the Grand Lodge of
North Carolina to be their orator on St. John's Day, June 24-,
1902. Under date of September 2, 1902, Grand Secretary John
C. Drewry, in a letter transmitting the resolutions of thanks
passed by the Lodge, uses this language:
( 42 )
(General ^att. ^. Ransom
"The noblest band of men in North CaroKna, numbering about four-
teen thousand of the best and purest citizens in our grand old Common-
wealth, desire to bear record of the noble life which you have led and the
love and esteem which we all bear for you. I am sending you by this
mail under another cover, a copy of the resolutions adopted by the
Grand Lodge, which I trust ^,vill reach you safely."
THE RESOLUTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
"The Grand Lodge of North Carolina desires to place on record a testi-
monial of its gratitude to the Hon. Matthew Whitaker Ransom for his
presence and participation in the exercises of the Order at Oxford on St,
John's Day, June 24, 1902.
"His prompt response to our invitation, his cheerful endurance of the
fatigue of travel, his splendid presence, his cordial greetings, and his elo-
quent oration all touched our hearts and gave a richer glow to the love,
admiration and esteem, which we have so long cherished for his noble
character, his splendid talents, and his life-long patriotic deeds.
"Brave as a soldier, wise as a statesman, eloquent as an orator, and
useful as a citizen, he has rounded out a life of glory and true nobility
rarely equalled and never surpassed in the annals of our State. It is a
credit to our people that they have spontaneously conferred upon him
unexampled honors inevery field of public service, and equally creditable
to him that he has won worthily ever3' honor and performed nobly every
"He stands among us today the foremost citizen of the State. Our Nes-
tor in w^isdom and eloquence. His life is a beacon light to the aspiring
youth of the land.
"He will be known as one who nobly served his people and his country
through long years of active labor, and in his old age remained a patron
of every manly virtue."
As evidence of the esteem and respect entertained for Gen. Ran-
som by his brother Senators, he was given the chairmanship of
important committees, and the only Senator from the South,
since the war, who was elected President pro tem of the Senate.
The traveler, as he enters or leaves the Capital of the Nation, lit-
tle thinks that he owes to Gen. Ransom, chairman of the com-
mittee on the Potomac River fronts, the beautiful grounds that
greet his eye, and the pure water over which he glides in his Pull,
man car. Senator Ransom secured the passage of the law estab-
lishing the committee on private land claims and Spanish grants
and was its chairman. While occupying this position of influence,
this incident occurred : Four Senators were enjoying an evening
(43 ) -: ;•■
(Beneral ytlaXt >X^» Ransom
at cards, at the home of one of them, when the Senator from
Ohio addressed the Senator from Kentucky this enquiry : "Sen-
ator, what kind of a man is your friend, Ransom, from North
Carolina ? I understand he owes everj-body, pays nobody, al-
ways is hard up, but he can't be induced by Col. I to intro-
duce a certain bill in the Senate, for which he could demand and
get thousands, and I want to know what sort of a man Ransom
is." The Kentucky Senator replied that it might be true all he
said about Senator Ransom's financial condition, he coidd not
say how this was, but he could tell him one thing. Col. I and
all the clients he represented did not have money enough to make
Gen. Ransom do an act as Senator which he thought wrong."
In the fierce light of 23 years' service in the Senate, no one has
ever had the temerity to suggest that Gen. Ransom was at any
time influenced to do a public service from pecuniary consider-
ations. As was once said by his illustrious colleague, Senator
Vance, on a memorable occasion, when he felt himself called upon
to vindicate his conduct as Senator, "These hands are clean,"
there has never been a suggestion of graft or bribery against
Gen. Ransom in his long and conspicious public service.
As chairman of committee on commerce and rivers and har-
bors. Gen. Ransom was enabled to obtain for his State and the
South the most liberal provisions for the expenditure of pubhc
moneys in the improvement of its water-courses and harbors. In
a five minutes speech he got passed in the Senate a bill appropriat-
ing a half million of dollars for the erection of a light house at
Hatteras Inlet. "No such result ever before followed a five min-
utes speech," said Senator Edmunds, of Vermont.
Senator Ransom was untiring in looking after the interests oi
his constituents and getting them positions of honor and emolu-
ment. His first effort was to get Gov. Vance's disabilities re-
moved. When the Democratic party came into power in 1885,
his influence with the Democratic administration was great, and
he used it for the advancement of Southern men, notably the ap-
pointment of Gov.Jarvis to be Minister Plenipotentiary to Brazil.
For twenty years or more he was member from his State on the
NationalDemocraticCommittee, and his services, advice and pecu-
•"'. : ( 44 )
(Beneral yttalt "W. !Jlansom
niary assistance were always freely given to those In charge of the
State's political campaigns. More than once, when in dire need
of pecuniary help, the State chairman of his party would appeal
to him, and though sorely pressed himself, he never hesitated to
sell what cotton he had and at whatever prices he could get for
it, and turn over the money to those in charge of the political
fortunes of his party in the State. There is not a man in public
life today in the State who at one time or another has not had
the helping hand of Senator Ransom.
Most of Gen. Ransom's senatorial life was spent in Washing-
ton, without the societ}' of his wife and children. This fact has
subjected him to much criticism. I have reason to know this was
the decision of the joint counsel between wife and husband. Gen-
eral and Mrs. Ransom lost their property as the result of the
war. Theirs was a large and increasing family. Neither wished
their 3'oung children to grow up or be educated in a city. It was
decided Mrs. Ransom should remain at home and keep the fam-
ily together — the boys were to be taught in the private schools
of North Carolina, notably Horner's, and complete their educa-
tions at the State University. As each finished his college course,
he returned to the parent nest to look after the farms that each
year are added. The only son who studies a profession also
comes home to practice it ; and when the end comes to their hon-
ored father, all his boys are with or near him, managing their re-
spective plantations. General Ransom had a passion for owning
land. When he died he possessed some 25,000 acres, all arable,
capable of the highest cultivation. How did he get hold of so
much land, one may ask? By giving more for it when any piece
was for sale than any one else would give, I answer. How did
he get the money to buy the land? He bought largely on time.
His salary as Minister to Mexico, he saved and put into land.
The lands he bought were well timbered. He often sold the tim-
ber for more than the land cost. In his boys he had five good
farmers. For years, when prices were good, it was not unusual
for General Ransom to sell his cotton crop and cotton seed for
between $70,000.00 and $75,000.00. Does not this evince the
wisdom of the Senator's course which once subjected him to cen-
( 45 )
(Beneral Mlalt. W, Ransom
sure? But I must hasten to the close. General Ransom's sena-
torial term was to expire March 4, 1895 ; the elections in 1894,
in his State, resulted in the defeat of his party. The seat of the
noble Vance had been vacated by death. Ransom's was now to
be vacated by change in the political fortunes of his party. The
members of the United States Senate, irrespective of party, unite
in a recommendation to the President to appoint their associate,
so soon to part from them, Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico.
This recommendation was unnecessary. The President, so soon
as he knew such a position would be agreeable to Senator
Ransom, had determined to offer him the place. There was not
a discordant note in the tone of approval that went abroad on
this appointment. A special to the News and Observer, under
date of February 26, 1895, says:
"An ovation was given Senator Ransom in the Metropolitan Hotel.
When the new Mexican Minister walked into the dining room, the ap-
plause and cheers that greeted him were deafening. The Metropolitan
Hotel is itself a landmark, having held a prominent rank among Wash-
ington hotels for forty years ; but Senator Ransom has been the one
thing to stand with the landmark. For twenty odd years he has made
it his home, and the Southern guests, for which it is noted, have been
brought there partly by his magnetism. When he leaves the Metropoli-
tan, the first pillow of the old hotel has fallen."
As voicing the sentiment of his own people, I quote from an
article written to his home paper by one of his neighbors. Dr. A.
"In your town a few days ago, it was my pleasure to meet and shake
the hand of a gentleman whom I consider the ablest of North Carolina's
living sons. He was on his way to Washington to attend a reception
and dining given complimentary to him by the Minister from Mexico.
From Washington General Ransom will go direct to Mexico to enter
upon the discharge of his duties. While holding his hand and bidding
him adieu, a feeling of sadness and sorrow came over me, but as Hooked
into his genial face, these vanished and I felt proud of the noble man
before me. I was proud that he and I were North Carolinians; that
North Carolina was the mother of such an endowed son, such an able
statesman, that this mighty nation would be represented in a foreign
country by a man of such magnanimity, learning and ability, such rare
diplomacy and statesmanship, a true and tried Democrat, a son of Old
(Beneral ytlatl. W* Ransom
North Carolina. It is true that his mother State refused to honor him
longer, that she failed to remember or appreciate hisbeneficient works of
the past, and in her last political campaign, he, like C^sar and Monte-
zuma fell from the Senatorial chair by blows from the hands of his own
people and those whom he had served with ability and faithfulness for
23 years, even at the risk of his life. Yet I felt glad that I Uved in a
country and belonged to a magnanimous nation that could appreciate
his worth, could recognize his honor and influence and know how to
honor and reward the same."
GENERAL RANSOM'S DEATH AND BURIAL.
About one o'clock on Saturday morning, October 8, 1904, on
the 78th anniversary of his birth, General Ransom died at his
home, Verona, with his sons, Matt. W.,Jr., George and Joe, at his
bedside. Robert and Patrick arrived a few hours afterwards.
Mrs. Ransom and their only daughter. Miss Esther, were at Blow-
ino- Rock, their summer home, but reached Verona Sunday morn-
ing. The burial was on Monday afternoon. Who has not read
of the imposing funeral ceremonies at the obsequies of the great,
and had their patriotism kindled afresh as they dwell in imagi-
nation on the glorious deeds of the honored dead.
It was a great fleet that accompanied the remains of Ger-
manicus across the seas to be burned on thefuneral pile at Rome.
A national holiday celebrated the return of the bones of Napoleon
from St. Helena to France, and the funeral car of his great antag-
onist, Wellington, is still preserved in the city of London. We
have seen a mighty ship of war sent by one of the great empires
of the world, as an escort to the remains of a private citizen, as
George Peabody, dying in England, is to be buried in America.
Recently a fleet of battleships, tendered by a friendly nation, par-
ticipates in the re-interment of the great Admiral, John Paul Jones,
in his final resting place in the soil of his adopted country, and
the President of the United States takes part in the ceremonies.
Who of us has not read that noble oration pronounced in the
Senate of the United States, in the presence of that great gather-
ing of dignitaries of the land in memory of Zebulon B. Vance.
But it is not for Ransom to be thus honored. No funeral car
caparisoned with emblems of mourning and accompanied by rep-
resentatives of the great departments of the Government is to
(Beneral yttalt >jt?, Ransom
bear Matt. W. Ransom to his last resting place. Listen to the
account of his burial, as given in a letter to his paper by its cor-
respondent, Mr. R. L. Gray:
"At the gate a wagon, with a negro driving a mule, took the coffin
and carried it for the hundred yards to the grave in the garden ; the
Masons, the pall bearers, his neighbors, the family, and the women with
their arms full of flowers, following slowly along the path, under the
long staves of the Masons, past the cabbages and the turnips to the
clump of trees at the bottom of the garden, where the grave was j^ng.
And then, with the throng standing about with lifted hats, the hundreds
of negroes in unobtrusive manners of ante bellum days, standing in the
rear, the white-robed rector, the reverend, and gallant Confederate
soldier. Major J. A. Weston, read the Episcopal services for the
dead, spoke some heartfelt words for his friend that was gone, and
all was over. While he was speaking, the level rays of the sinking sun
shown through the dust of the wide fields upon the homely scene ; horses
neighed in the 'lot,' and from a cedar in the yard a mocking bird twitted
its evening lay. There under the sturdy walnut and locust, in its strag-
gling dress, the Masons laid the Senator. And one knew that he was
placed in death as he would have wished ; in his own ground, near the
ivy-covered grave of his dead son, Tom, under a tree with the cotton
fields beyond the fence, in hearing distance of the spot where he fought
and defeated in battle the invaders of his State."
In this sequestered spot so beautifully spoken of above, a mon-
ument has been erected over the grave by the family. It is of
granite, about eighteen feet in heighth, a shaft surmounting a
On the east face appear these words :
Matt. Whitaker Ransom,
October 8, 1826,
October 8, 1904.
On the north face :
Graduate of the University.
The State's youngest Attorney-General.
Commissioner to the Peace Conference at Montgomery.
Brigadier-General of the Confederacy.
Promoted for gallantry in battle.
( 48 )
(Beneral ^Jltatt. ^St^, ^^ansom
On the south face :
United States Senator 24 years.
Minister to Mexico.
Orator, soldier, statesman.
Through Hfe he retained the confidence of his people.
On the west face nothing is written.
I must now close, ladies of the Memorial Association, having
taxed your patience beyond prudence.
If any doubted General Ransom's hold upon the people of North
Carolina, and their esteem for the man, let him read what was
said and spoken of him after his death. I will ask you to bear
with me while I make three quotations. The News and Observer
of October 8, 1904, has this to say:
"Senator Ransom, in many respects, attained greater reputation than
any other citizen who has represented the State in the Federal Congress.
From the standpoint of length of service, no other Senator has ever
served the State in the Senate so long. He was regarded as one of the
leading and ablest members of that great forum. It has been the dis-
tinction and privilege of few citizens of this country— less than a score-
to serve longer in the upper branch of Congress. But it was the abiHty
and leadership of the man that counted for so much.
"He easily took rank as one of the foremost members of the Senate.
His wisdom and experience gave him a prestige that placed him at the
front of the statesmen of his time. In a crucial period in the history of
his country, he had given his life and his energies to its cause, and his
memory will live for time to come, for his was a glorious career.
"Vance and Ransom ! Who will forget these magic names ? Both the
greatest statesmen North Carolina has produced in modern times."
In the Charlotte Observer of the same date, the editor closes as
"We have not the heart to write further at this moment of General
Ransom. There remains not his like. He was our fittest scholar, our
most accomplished diplomat, the handsomest man among us, the ablest
man, the man who did us most credit in the eyes of the country. He is
indeed the last of the Romans. We shall not look upon his like again."
The distinguished editor-in-chief of the Biographical History of
North Carolina, in his admirable sketch of General Ransom,
speaks of him:
(Beneral ^att "W* Ransom
"Distinguished as a soldier, statesman, scholar and orator, and by his
public services and influence upon the people of North Carolina, the most
illustrious citizen of the State, the key note of the life of General Ransom
was courage. He was courageous in action, whether on the battlefield
or in the equally important contests in civil life."
A life-long neighbor, whose plantation adjoins the General's,
v^rites thus to his home paper :
"The tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony.
Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth, that breathe their words in pain."
"In his quiet country home, in the full possession of his faculties
and perfect knowledge of his condition, he faced death with the
same fearlessness and calmness with which he had faced every
other crisis in his life, the late ex-Attorney-General, Brigadier-
General, Confederate States Army, United States Senator and
ex-Ambassador to Mexico, gave utterance to these words, which,
if he had never given utterance to any others, are sufficient to
render his name immortal: 'Do right, boys. Alwaj^s do right.
God bless your mother, I am going,' and instantaneously fell
over upon the bed, and in a few seconds his soul, we hope, passed
to smoother and gentler shores.
"The writer has reason to believe that one of the most impor-
tant objects the late Senator set himself to accomplish was to do
right upon any and all occasions, let the consequences be what
they might. Perhaps he often failed, who is to be the judge ? for
to our Saviour alone was it given never to do wrong. Is it not
reasonable to suppose that the great eminence he attained, the
success that he met with, can in no slight degree be attributed to
this effort and determination to do right? Can language be
more simple and results more grand and far reaching ? Is it in-
conceivable that the words, 'Always do right, boys,' were in-
tended, not only for those present, but as his last words of advice
to the people at large, whom he had served so long and so faith-
fully, and whose interests and well being he ever had at heart?
North Carolina owes much to General Ransom, but never more
than for these last grand words from a grand old man."
Of the innumerable telegrams and letters of sympathy' received
(Beneral ^att. W. Ransom
bv Mrs. Ransom and other members of the family, I will ask your
indulgence while I read one letter. It bears date Washington,
D. C, October 10, 1904, the day of the funeral. The writer is the
present senior Senator from Maryland, the Hon. Arthur P. Gor-
"My Dear Mrs. Ransom:— It is indeed a great shock to me to learu
of the sudden death of your honored husband. I give you and all of your
household my sincerest sympathy. The General and 1 were associated
together for a great many years in the Senate, and there grew up be-
tween us a warm friendship which does not often exist between men in
public life. We were devoted to each other and agreed in nearly every
thing relating to public affairs. He was a wise counselor and a devoted
friend. The world will probably never know the great service he ren-
dered in critical times in public questions, because he never cared to dis-
play what he had accomplished. His death is a decided loss to his
At a meeting of the Council of State, held on the morning of
October 10, in the Governor's office at Raleigh, resolutions were
adopted, from which I quote as follows:
"We thank God that his life was spared for so many years, in order to
accomplish this great work for his State, and that he might complete a
great and perfected life, and that he died in the autumn, when the rich
harvests were being gathered, when the roses had faded and the sere and
yellow leaf of the year had appeared, and the golden rod was in bloom,
thus indicating the end of the perfected year. We desire to express our
deepest sorrow at the loss of North CaroHna's greatest citizen, states-
man and patriot."
The flag on the Capitol building was ordered to be placed at
half mast and all the departments of the State Government closed
during the hours of the funeral.
Ladies, comrades and gentlemen, I must now close. As I stand
here facing the portrait of the illustrious Vance, I am reminded
how strangely connected were the public services of Vance and
Ransom, Each completed his education at the State University,
each in his young manhood held a seat in this chamber. Later on,
each commanded a regiment in the same brigade ; and later still,
each served his people in the Senate of the United States, until
the one died and the political fortunes of the party of the other
( 51 )
(Betteral ^Ifttatt X^. !)\an5om
went down in defeat. The younger died first, and in the Senate
Chamber at Washington, with the President, his Cabinet, Repre-
sentatives of foreign governments, members of the Supreme Court
and the Joint Assembly of the two houses of Congress, as his
audience, the older delivered the funeral oration. A matchless
piece of rhetoric — to become a classic, a monument alike to the
orator and the honored dead.
The older has now passed away. Could it have been that
Vance had survived Ransom, and was standing here before this
cultured audience to deliver a funeral oration on his deceased col-
league, do we not know Vance would appeal to you, with all
the fervid eloquence of his nature to do justice to the memor}' of
Ransom; that a portrait of the man as he stood up in the Senate
of the United States after three j^ears of silence, and pleaded for
justice to his State and the South should adorn these walls; that
a monument of native granite to remind the passers by of the emi-
nent services rendered his people by their dead statesman, should
be erected at the northern front of this Capitol square, and a
eulogy fit for the occasion be delivered before the Joint Assembly
of the Representatives of the people ?
Ladies of the Memorial Association, I have finished the task
entrusted to me.
WM. H. S. BURGWYN.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
I Mil i
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